Community Comes Together During Annual Event at Pelham Schools
by Lynne Ober
Once again, Pelham Community Night was celebrated at all three of Pelham’s schools and, as usual, people came to enjoy the fun and learn about the community.
At the high school both the Police Department and Fire Department were entertaining and educating kids. Kids of all ages could drool over the shiny police motorcycle that was parked by the police table. Badges, information, and fun were available to those who stopped and chatted.
The Pelham Fire Department brought a variety of educational materials, badges and giveaways. A fire truck and ambulance stood outside the school with staff available to show them off.
Members of the Pelham School Board took turns at the school board table. The school board members and the superintendent were on hand to answer any and all questions relating to the schools.
The high school library was filled with music and art. Two musical duos, one guitars and one flutes, alternated playing background music for community members as student artwork.
On display were art pieces from all ages. Elementary students proudly showed their parents what they had done as did middle school students. In addition, the artwork from the recently held Scholastic Art Show at the high school was still on display.
Region 10 had a booth explaining what services they offer to the residents of Pelham.
The elementary school is usually crammed with booths and people on Community Night. The fun starts as soon as the door to the school is opened. Just inside the front door of the elementary school, community members could get more information about the upcoming ballot with School Board Candidate Lorraine Dube and another supporter of the petitioned warrant article for the high school expansion handing out informational brochures.
Within a few steps, Joyce McDevitt was handing out maps so that residents could easily locate items of interest. “This year we are more spread out across the three schools,” she said as she offered a map. The front hallway was filled with booths. The map was helpful to find the places that you wanted to visit.
Pelham Recreation Department hosted a booth about their programs. Recreation Director Darren McCarthy, who always has a smile, was on hand to answer parent questions and explain programs. They had informational brochures.
The Pelham Soccer Club and Little League were two of the other busy areas with moms, dads, and kids chatting about the program. Parents could still register their children for both the baseball and softball programs. Player Recruiter Ed Gleason was shuffling papers as fast as he could while answering questions. Bob Blinn was on hand to discuss the program.
Parents were talking with Cub and Boy Scout leaders about the programs. Pictures of activities were on display and information was available to interested boys.
The library had a booth and was discussing programming. Library Director Sue Hoadley was on hand to talk about offerings at the library.
One of the always favorite displays is the dinosaur display. Kids and parents alike enjoy looking at the models and dioramas crafted by students.
One of the unsung heroes of Community Night is Anne Wagner, who, each and every year, gets everyone organized and ensures that the event is filled with fun. Thanks, Anne!
Article 18 – The End of the SAU?
by Diane Chubb
Pelham and Windham already seem to have a tenuous relationship with respect to the school systems. The “no” vote on the co-op three years ago has left a bitter taste in the mouths of more than one Windham resident. But why should Pelham residents care about what Windham thinks?
One reason is that Pelham and Windham are still part of the same school administrative unit and share those costs. The SAU budget is part of the overall operating budget for the school district. Currently, Pelham pays 49 percent of the costs for the SAU, which is $426,562 this year. Windham pays the remaining 51 percent. The SAU budget covers the salaries and benefits for the superintendent, the assistant superintendent, a business manager, some secretarial staff, a human resource person, and a special education coordinator. This also includes the cost of staff recruitment, the costs of a payroll and financial system to issue paychecks, pay taxes, administer benefits, pay for supplies and materials, and to generally run the school budgets.
Article 18 came about because Pelham School Board member Linda Mahoney perceived an immediate need to take the issue to the voters. As the November 9, the school board meeting was getting close to wrapping up a four-hour session, Mahoney first brought up the question of whether voters should be able to vote on the school administrative budget. She said that it had come up at a Budget Committee meeting, and she wanted to know what everyone thought. She wanted to put something on the ballot in March to get voter response.
The issue of voting on the SAU budget as a separate warrant article had not been previously discussed. Mike Conrad, Chair of the Board, stated that this proposal would require the support of both the Pelham and Windham School boards. As such, he believed that it should be an agenda item for the SAU meeting with Windham. Conrad also pointed out that if such a measure passed, it might speed up the dissolution of the SAU, and Pelham would be on its own.
Vice-Chair Cindy Kyzer had said that since Mahoney had just brought up the issue for the first time, she would like to review the matter further before making any decisions. She agreed that any action should be discussed with Windham.
Member Steven Tello stated that he did not answer, because he knew the issue was not as simple as it appeared. He says that he and the other board members do support the voters' rights to vote on how their money is spent. However, Tello knew that putting the issue on the ballot without discussing it with Windham first would start a chain of events that might end in the dissolution of the SAU.
The majority of the board agreed to wait to make it an action item for the SAU meeting with Windham in May.
At the February 9 School District Deliberative Session, Mahoney stated that she saw the board's refusal to act on the matter immediately as a rejection of the voters’ right to vote on the SAU budget. She believed that it was important to get the issue on the ballot as soon as possible.
Therefore, she stated that she acted as a private citizen, and convinced residents in Pelham to sign a petition to include a warrant article on the March ballot regarding the SAU. A “yes” vote on Article 18 would give voters the right to approve the school administrative budget as a separate warrant article. If Article 18 passes, both towns will have the opportunity to vote on the SAU operating budget. If the budget is rejected, a default budget would be in effect.
Mahoney also stood outside of the new Shaw's supermarket in Windham and got Windham voters to sign a similar petition. A corresponding warrant article is set to appear on Windham's ballot in March.
The article must pass by a majority of the total vote by both towns. For example, if it passes in Pelham by 1,000 “yes” to 100 “no” votes, but loses in Windham 100 “yes” votes to 1,500 “no” votes, then the total number of “yes” votes is 1,100, and the total number of “no” votes is 1,600. Thus, the article would fail.
The article has caused a lot of controversy in both Pelham and Windham. At a budget discussion in Windham, a resident brought up the fact that a Pelham School Board member collected the signatures for the warrant article. The Windham School Board broke from their budget meeting to see if they could, in turn, put a question on the ballot to immediately start to dissolve the SAU.
At the deliberative session, Mahoney defended her warrant article, including her right to present the petition as a private citizen. She talked about the importance of providing more accountability to the voters as to how their money is spent. Some voters enthusiastically expressed their desire for such accountability in support of the article.
However, many voters are concerned about the manner in which Mahoney had acted. Even if she acted within her rights as a private citizen, it was still perceived as a Pelham School Board member telling Windham how to run their town. Further, Mahoney pursued the petition without first discussing it with the Windham School Board.
Tello stated that the partnership with Windham requires a certain amount of trust. To act as Mahoney did showed a lack of trust. One voter compared this action to “taking an ax to your neighbor.”
Currently, the Pelham and Windham School boards approve the SAU budget. Once approved by the boards, it cannot be changed at a deliberative session or a town meeting. Kyzer did point out that any Pelham voter was welcome to attend the SAU budget meetings and ask questions or make comments.
Tello also stated that just having the warrant article on the ballot in March is offensive to Windham. Whether or not Article 18 passes, the steps are already in place to break apart the SAU. A “yes” vote will only speed up the process.
Chairman Conrad and others have previously discussed dissolving the SAU. However, Conrad had hoped it would be several years before it occurred, thus giving Pelham more time to plan for the dissolution. Right now, he believes that Pelham can not afford the splitting of the SAU. He still hopes that the warrant article can be discussed with Windham, and put it on the ballot with the support of both boards. He stated that, “Many of us on the Pelham Board and the Windham board agree this would have been supported in May with the backing of both boards and placed on the March 2007 ballot.”
According to Mahoney, this warrant article has nothing to do with splitting up the SAU.
Bill Scanzani, Chair of the CIP, states that if there is a split, then Pelham School District will have to form its own SAU, because the law requires a school district to belong to an SAU. An SAU would require at least a superintendent, a business manager, some secretarial staff, a human resource person, and a special education coordinator. The current SAU does have an assistant superintendent, but even without this position, Scanzani believes that Pelham will have to pay double what it pays now for its own SAU.
He also stated that Pelham will also lose some the purchasing power for equipment and supplies that it currently enjoys as part of the SAU with Windham. Also, Windham owns the building where the joint SAU is housed. Scanzani says that the need to find a location for its own SAU “will certainly add to the cost Pelham taxpayers will be obligated to pay.”
Pelham Daisies Brighten Day for Nursing Home Residents
Pelham Daisy Troop #2955 visited Fairview Nursing Home in Hudson. For a special treat, the girls made and distributed valentines to the residents.
Valentine’s Day Breakfast Satisfies Hearty Appetites
by Lynne Ober
It’s an annual tradition for Pelham Senior Center to invite town officials to have breakfast with Pelham seniors. For both town officials and seniors it’s an opportunity to get acquainted and to chat.
This year mammoth pancakes and sausage were served. The tables were decorated with red flowers in honor of Valentine’s Day.
According to Senior Center Director Sue Hovling almost every town department was represented at the breakfast. People came and went. “We do this every year. It’s a fun time for all of us,” she smiled. “We had folks from the Highway Department, from the Transfer Station, Police Department, Fire Department, Town Hall staff – everyone.”
Windham Teacher of the Year is ‘Humbled’ by Recognition
by Lynne Ober
When Nancy Fahey was asked to attend the School Deliberative Session she readily agreed. Little did she know that a tremendous honor was awaiting her.
Fahey, a Windham Middle School teacher, was surprised to learn she had been chosen Windham’s Teacher of the Year.
Windham School Board Chairman Bev Donovan announced the award. “She engages students at all levels. She pushes with a positive attitude and lots of patience.” Donovan said that Fahey characterized all that was good in the teaching profession, noting that she teaches her students about personal responsibilities. “Many of her students keep coming back for visits.”
Fahey has a passion for books and a passion for learning. She combines that with her love of her students. “She chaperones three to four dances a year, had been teacher representative to the PTA, and is always the first one to volunteer for any project,” smiled Donovan.
The process for choosing Teacher of the Year “is a collaborative decision of the Windham administrators and the SAU office. Consideration is given to leadership, passion, and varied and diverse contributions to the school district,” said Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler.
When Fahey came to the podium she told the crowd that she was totally surprised and a bit naïve. When invited to go to the School Deliberative Session, she went – with no idea that this recognition awaited her.
“Your children have been a joy,” Fahey told the audience. “I love what I do.”
Fahey paused and then said, “I’m humbled by this honor and I appreciate it.”
“Nancy Fahey is an inspirational teacher whose dedication to the children of Windham is limitless. Nancy is an experienced educator who believes that learning should be a joyful adventure and moves mountains to make that happen for students,” concluded Cutler.